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An Open Letter to the National Media that is Clueless About Columbus

 Dan Longerbone An Open Letter to the National Media that is Clueless About ColumbusPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Dear National Media,

Recently it has come to your attention that Columbus, Georgia was in the running for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. No wait, not that Columbus, the one in South Carolina. Oh, that’s Columbia? Must be that one in Ohio then.

Yes, Columbus, Ohio. You know, the state capital. OK, Columbia is a capital too but let’s stay focused. Your reaction to the announcement was predictable even though it stings a bit more each time. Among the best:

Since August 1, Democrat Wire, a Twitter account that’s essentially a DNC newsfeed, has six mentions of Philadelphia being a favorite to win. Columbus also has six mentions…regarding the fact there was a site visit. And one that the ‘Shoe might be a bad idea.

Democratic Convention Watch pays no mention to the site visit here. Even Birmingham got a bone from these guys!

Finally, The Wire gave us its pros and cons for each of the five finalists. Four were rather well reasoned paragraphs; guess who earned a one sentence quip?

“Quick, name something distinctive about Columbus.”

We don’t have anything distinctive like the Empire State Building or Independence Hall. No Gateway Arch, no Sears Tower (sorry, Willis Tower), a serious lack of beach and certainly no mountains. It’s easy to understand that someone who’s never been here might be at a loss to picture the place; rust belt, corn, something something football. That’s because people who come here aren’t after photographic memories and never have been. No, a lot of people who visit end up staying here because of quite another type of memory. You see, Columbus is a place that needs to be experienced, to be felt. Shiny pictures of our waterfront and skyline (which always seem to be from terrible angles, btw) hide what lurks inside.

Ahhh, what indeed lurks inside the largest single city in Ohio? A city that made up the combined population losses of the next 10 largest cities by itself. With 20,000 people to spare. In the last four years here are some of the things we’ve been called (in addition to “Where?”):

These successes have been accomplished during the tenure of a four-term Democratic Mayor, with a Democratic City Council, and a Democratic Board of County Commissioners.

This is a place that other cities across the country look up to and have done so for over a century. The public-private partnership is such that the rather conservative editorial page of our daily paper backed an income tax increase on people working in the city; that half-percent increase was approved by voters during the recent economic downturn.

Yet, there’s more to Columbus than shiny baubles sold at a tourist stand or grandiose accolades from internet “best of” lists. Once you come here and really get into the scruff of the city, you’ll find a sense of belonging. You’ll find yourself saying “That’s the best…” a lot. And you’ll find we don’t have a lack of culture or identity; quite the opposite, ours is just like yours, no matter who you are. You just don’t know it yet because we aren’t a flashy folk.

Alas, no one takes us seriously and I’m fine with that. I love the idea I’m surrounded by over a million “municipal corporation” hipsters that knew and loved this place before it was cool. So please, dear media, do me a favor. If we do get this convention and you’re scrambling to find something to write about us, I sincerely hope you run across this post. I hope it spurs you to take an extended visit and see the place for yourselves, and I hope that changes (see what I did there?) your perception of the biggest small town in America. And if you do, I trust the next time someone says “Quick, name something distinctive about Columbus” you’ll have a treasure of memories at the tip of your tongue.

For ongoing discussion about the DNC in Columbus, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

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